Today on the podcast we chat with Marco Ruggeri, marketing manager at
Adam: [00:08] Hi, and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so the good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.
[00:35] My guest on the show today is Marco Ruggeri. Marco is the marketing manager at Samaritas. Marco, why don’t you give us a quick ten-second bio? Let us get to know you a bit.
Marco: [00:45] Sure. First off, I just wanted to say thanks for having me on your show. A little bit about me, I’m the current marketing manager for Samaritas. I graduated from Wayne State University here in Detroit and I’ve been doing this for about ten years now.
Adam: [01:02] Nice. Awesome. So graduated Detroit, stayed around Detroit and doing good in the world through good marketing, it sounds like.
Marco: [01:11] Yeah, trying to.
Adam: [01:13] I love it. I love it, man. Well, that’s great. Well, let’s go ahead and dig into the meat of the show here. To get started, question number one: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has worked well for you?
Marco: [01:27] Yeah, for sure. When it comes to digital marketing, I think what’s worked well for us is not just having a constant stream of communication, but also finding ways to set ourselves apart from our competitors. For Samaritas in particular, we’re very active on social media but we implemented a mindset throughout the organization that you shouldn’t just post to post. I think by creating meaningful content that’s published at specific times rather than inundating our audience with all this information in a short span has really helped us. And that goes for photo messaging, infographics, or video. Another digital platform that we use to, let’s say, communicate with donors, corporate partners, foundation members, and those who represent different congregations throughout Michigan, is a platform called MailChimp and this has given us the ability to create eye-catching email campaigns. Some of them have a call to action, others are just some informative pieces on what’s happening within the organization and that’s been very effective, I think, in obtaining increased support and establishing new community partners. To give you a specific example of a campaign that worked well for us was something we did for foster care. So, we always have a need for foster parents. In Michigan specific, there are more than thirteen thousand kids alone who are in foster care at any given time and they desperately need a support system in their lives. So rather than just coming out and pleading with people to foster, we decided to take a different approach. Through Facebook, we created an actual job application for foster parents and the subtitle read, “This is the hardest job you’ll ever love,” and some of the actual job descriptions we included were things like “you will provide a safe place to sleep” or “you’ll provide meals, a nurturing environment”, et cetera. Just with this specific campaign, in one month, we exceeded the number of inquiries that foster care is actually expected to receive in six months or something crazy like that. This is something that we implement now on a regular basis because we know it works.
Adam: [03:58] Wow. I love that. First, I love that you’re using MailChimp. It’s an Atlanta company. I’m based in Atlanta so, big fan of those guys. I was actually down at the building their office was in yesterday. Real good crew there. I really love that approach. I mean, the way that you’re thinking in terms of create unique and interesting content that’s meaningful. And not only that, but like, let’s move away from the sort of traditional methodology of, “Okay, let’s just recruit foster parents,” and turned the whole thing on its head. It sounds like it really had an amazing effect. That’s fantastic.
Marco: [04:34] Yeah, it’s just another way we are trying to set ourselves apart. In nonprofit world, sometimes you don’t necessarily have all the funds to do that all the time, but we found a way and we think this works for us.
Adam: [04:46] Well, it’s got to get even more creative and in the nonprofit space because we’ve got to do a lot more with a lot less, typically, and that’s the name of the game. That’s great. Question number two: related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?
Marco: [05:03] Yeah. Something that hasn’t worked well is something I touched on a little bit already and that is inundating audience with endless amounts of information. I think early on we were sending out email campaigns almost once a week and they were just filled with info: descriptives on all our different programs, a lot of call to actions, a lot of information. I think every week we were, like I said, highlighting a different program and it was mostly informative. It was something we did right after rebranding to Samaritas in 2015. And while I think it may have served its purpose initially, people eventually became tired of receiving all this information on a weekly basis and we started losing subscribers because of it. Since then, we’ve adjusted. This is our email messaging, our newsletter. It goes out once a month or bi-weekly and it’s resulted in far more subscribers than unsubscribes.
Adam: [06:15] That’s great. I’m a big fan of keeping things simple and I think that email newsletters, too often, we’re trying to pack in just everything, every department, every program, anything we talk about they may be interested in and I think that’s a really huge mistake because our attention spans are limited, especially now even more so than before—pre-smartphone, for example. I think we’ve got to recognize that and we’ve got to really speak to people’s needs very directly, very quickly and in a compelling and interesting way and then we need to let them move about their day to the next thing. If we have this very long email we were trying to get, we’re asking too much, I think. And I think it sounds like you hit the nail on the head with that. That’s fantastic.
Marco: [06:59] Yeah, and especially for us, we have over sixty program sites in forty cities and that’s just in Michigan Lower Peninsula and these programs include adoption, foster care, senior and affordable living, just to name a few. We have disability services. It’s constant. I mean, we have so many services that we cover, just receiving all that information on a weekly basis, I think it was overwhelming for people, so we had to adjust and I think it’s worked out to our benefit.
Adam: [07:29] Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love that. Making things simple is one of my favorite things to do in marketing. In fact, that’s really one of the things that I consider to be one of my particular specialties: it’s taking complex ideas, complex systems, complex processes or services or whatever, and making them simplified and understandable to a common user. That’s great. Question number three: related to digital marketing—we’re starting the new year—can you tell us something you’re excited about?
Marco: [07:56] It may sound a little cliché, but I’m excited about the future and the future of our organization. Just three and a half years ago, we were still operating as Lutheran social services in Michigan, and while that served its purpose and created a foundation for where we are today, we were forced to adjust to the times like everyone else. We were always an inclusive organization that accepted everyone regardless of your income, your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, but we needed that to be reflected in our name because people thought you had to be Lutheran to actually receive our services at one point. I think becoming Samaritas has opened a lot of doors for us, not just in the amount of people we serve, but also the partners we’re able to obtain now from a business perspective. It’s a very exciting time for us and our goal is to continue to grow and serve as many people as we possibly can, not just in Michigan but throughout the entire world.
Adam: [09:07] I love that. I think that’s a really great vision and I think you’re right. I think when we have a brand that pigeonholes us in someone’s mind, it doesn’t necessarily pigeonhole the services that we offer or the people that we care for, but in the minds of the people, if it pigeonholes us, it really limits the amount of growth that we can have as an organization. And so we’ve got to be really careful what we name things or even how we portray ourselves out there as we’re beginning to grow things so that we’re not immediately pigeonholed and somebody doesn’t look and go, “Oh, that’s not for me, I’m not on that team. That’s not for me.” Because in fact, we really want to help everybody, right? I think most nonprofits will help everybody and it certainly sounds like you do. And so I think that’s a really smart and very difficult thing to do. It’s really hard for a nonprofit that’s got some concrete foundations to rebrand like that. Applause to you for that.
Marco: [09:59] Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Adam: [10:04] Marco, let me see if I can recap our conversation so far and then I’ll ask you if you have any final thoughts you want to share with the audience. Related to digital marketing, what has worked well for you? You said not having a constant stream of communication, but setting yourselves apart by having valuable, quality content over an abundance of content—quality over quantity, for that. You said you’re active on social but you don’t just post to post, but you create meaningful content and meaningful stories along the way that engage with people. Use MailChimp for email campaigns. Again, big fan of MailChimp. And you think about communication often in a different way. You mentioned creating a job title for foster parents; so rather than saying, “Hey, we want you to be a foster parent. Can you please come apply?” It’s like, “Hey, we want you to be a foster parent. Here’s the job title. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. Here’s the criteria.” I mean, it’s kind of brilliant. I really, really love that.
[10:57] For question number two, for what has not worked well that we can learn from, you said inundating the audience with endless information does not work well. Too much info is information overload. You’ll get email unsubscribes, as you do that in your emails. And in other areas of marketing, that’s also a problem if you could expand that thinking to web pages, to social, but emails especially. Nobody likes to get a long, blown out, multi-paragraph in-your-face email. It’s just overwhelming. Don’t do it. You’re better off not doing it.
[11:26] And for what you’re excited about, you said you’re excited about the future of the organization, the rebrand from a few years ago. It’s helped you grow substantially and really be very all-encompassing in the minds of the people that you are serving and that’s allowed you to grow. I’m excited, personally, to hear about the year that you’ve got coming up because I think it sounds like you’re doing great work, a great job helping a lot of people and I certainly hope to see you help a whole lot more. Marco, are there any final things you want to share with the audience?
Marco: [11:56] I just want to thank you again for having me on your show. This was really nice. It was a lot of fun. For your listeners, for those who would like to learn more about the things we do, please visit us at samaritas.org. We’re celebrating eighty-five years of impact this year, so it’s a huge milestone for us and we’re doing a lot of interactive things on our website where they can navigate through an interactive timeline and view eighty-five stories of impact that we’re collecting from clients and partners throughout the entire year. Those are just some of the things that we have going on at Samaritas.
Adam: [12:32] Man, that is exciting. I love that and I love that you gave the plug at the end. I can’t tell you how many people do not take that opportunity to give a plug for themselves. Glad you did. Thanks for doing that and thanks for being on the show. It was really great having you.
Marco: [12:46] Thank you so much. Love to come back.
Adam: [12:48] I’ll bring you back. There’s no doubt about it.
[12:50] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker, and on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership, productivity, habit building, and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks, and tune in next time.
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